IKEA SCANDAL (spying on angry customers and workers)


No company has ever treated us so badly,” wrote a woman known as Hanna F. in a letter of complaint to Ikea, French website Mediapart reveals. Hanna had bought a kitchen and beds for her country house at an Ikea store in Evry, in the outskirts of Paris.

Ikea delivered the items two months after the agreed date, meaning Hanna and her family had to stay in a bed and breakfast near their home in the French department of Finistère.

Hanna wrote a letter of complaint to Ikea asking for a refund of the extra cost. But what Hanna did not suspect was that the company then allegedly started an investigation into her background.

According to Mediapart, Ikea contacted a private detective to find out details about the dissatisfied customer.

Ikea allegedly investigated another client known as Jérôme P., a real estate agent, who complained about a faulty wardrobe he had bought.

On Friday, French police searched the headquarters of the company in France and the home of the employee responsible for Ikea’s risk management policy, following allegations of illegal surveillance.

Employees working for Ikea have previously filed a complaint against the company for allegedly spying on employees.

The management of the company in France said it was taking the accusations “very seriously”.

“The respect of privacy is amongst the most strongly held values of the group and we strongly disapprove of any actions which call that into question,” the company said in a statement.

Ikea used secret French police files: report

Weekly French newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné and investigative website Rue89 report the company used French security companies to gain access to documents held in the STIC system.

STIC (Système de traitement des infractions constatées) is a centralized records system which groups together data from police investigations, including both suspected criminals and their victims.

Accessing the documents without authorization is an offence.

“The allegations have come to our knowledge and we look very seriously upon it. We have started an internal investigation to find out if there is any truth to it,” Ikea’s Sweden-based spokesperson Ylva Magnusson told the Local.

“We are a company based on values and honour, and we respect and believe in the importance of both our customers and our staff members.”

In a statement issued in France, Ikea said it disapproved “clearly and vigorously all illegal practices that could undermine important values such as the respect for privacy.”

A series of internal emails published by Le Canard Enchaîné allege that, starting in 2003, the head of security at Ikea’s French operation regularly asked for checks on employees and clients.

Questions were asked about more than 200 people, including requests for criminal records, vehicle registration checks and affiliations with political organizations.

In one email reported by the newspaper, the head of risk management at Ikea asked whether a client involved in a dispute with the store was “known to police” and asked for a check on her address.

Another email reportedly requested information on someone who was thought to have made “anti-globalization remarks” and could even be an “eco-terrorist risk.

The newspaper reported that each check on the police files cost Ikea €80 ($108).
The STIC database has also been heavily criticized in France for inaccuracies.

A 2008 report by the data watchdog CNIL estimated that only 17 percent of the documents about individuals were accurate.

The company has been attacked before over its security methods.

A 2010 book,

levelled accusations of racism and nepotism against the retailer. The book also claimed the company used surveillance methods that were worthy “of the Stasi.”

Newspaper Le Parisien reported on Wednesday that around ten Ikea employees are planning to lodge a formal complaint about illegal use of personal data. The charge can be punished with a €300,000 fine and up to five years in prison.

The employees also plan to launch an association for victims of IKEA (“Association de Défense des Victimes d’IKEA”) for employees, union representatives and customers who may have been affected by the alleged activities.

French complaint filed over Ikea spy claims

A French union lodged a formal legal complaint against Swedish furniture giant Ikea accusing it of illegally spying on staff and customers, legal sources said.

The Force Ouvriere union lodged the complaint at a court in Versailles, near Paris, a day after the French branch of Ikea said it would investigate spying allegations made by satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine.

The probe will examine claims that the firm paid for illegal access to secret French police files in order to gain information about its employees, clients and even people who came near its property, Ikea said.

Force Ouvriere’s complaint accuses the company of fraudulent use of personal data, the sources said.

Le Canard published what it said were email exchanges between the head of the company’s risk management department, Jean-Francois Paris, and Yann Messian of Surete International about getting access to the police force’s STIC files.

The controversial STIC file system has been criticised for being an unreliable database of millions of names and personal information about crime perpetrators, victims and even witnesses.

The newspaper said that Surete International offered access to the files for 80 euros (about $100) a time, as well as to a database of vehicle owners.

The report quoted emails requesting information on employees, including union members, on the names associated with a list of mobile phone numbers and asking to know who were the owners of certain car registrations.

Ikea France allegedly asked for police files on a customer who was suing the company for 4,000 euros and for the name of the owner of a car that approached the site of a future shop.

Swedish furniture giant Ikea has admitted to ethical breaches after it was accused of illegally accessing secret police files in France as part of its efforts to screen potential employees

The flat-pack furniture firm has also been accused of spying on irate customers.
Without referring to specific cases, the company pledged on Friday to clean up its act.

”Ikea totally condemns the practices brought to light which contravene its must fundamental principles, especially the right to privacy,” news agency Reuters quoted Ikea as saying in a statement.

“These practices go against the ethics of Ikea which call for its activities to be conducted in an upright and honest manner.”

Weekly French newspaper Le Canard Enchaîné reported at the end of February that the company used French security companies to gain access to documents held in the STIC system.

STIC (Système de traitement des infractions constatées) is a centralized records system which groups together data from police investigations, including both suspected criminals and their victims.

Accessing the documents without authorization is an offence.

“The allegations have come to our knowledge and we look very seriously upon it. We have started an internal investigation to find out if there is any truth to it,” Ikea’s Sweden-based spokesperson Ylva Magnusson told The Local at the time.

A series of internal emails published by Le Canard Enchaîné allege that, starting in 2003, the head of security at Ikea’s French operation regularly asked for checks on employees and clients.

Questions were asked about more than 200 people, including requests for criminal records, vehicle registration checks and affiliations with political organizations.

In one email reported by the newspaper, the head of risk management at Ikea asked whether a client involved in a dispute with the store was “known to police” and asked for a check on her address.

Another email reportedly requested information on someone who was thought to have made “anti-globalization remarks” and could even be an “eco-terrorist risk.

In mid-March, French police searched the headquarters of the company in France and the home of the employee responsible for Ikea’s risk management policy, following fresh allegations that the company had carried out illegal surveillance on dissatisfied customers.

Couple sues Ikea to expose spying ‘cover-up’

A Swedish couple who believes Ikea spied on them and is outraged by the company’s perceived stonewalling is suing the Swedish furniture giant in an effort to expose the truth.

“We tried to let Ikea voluntarily tell us the truth but they refused. In order to find out the truth, there is no other option but for us to file several lawsuits,” Swede Pascal Denize told The Local.

“Ikea is currently scrambling to cover all this up.”

Denize’s decision to pursue legal action against Ikea comes in the wake of recent revelations in the French media about efforts by Ikea to spy on staff and customers in France, where Denize and his wife bought a vacation home in 2006.

He claims he has “concrete evidence” in the form of emails and otherdocumentation showing that top Ikea managers in France were behind efforts to “investigate our personal lives”.

According to reports in the French press, Ikea France tried to procure police fileson customers, among other things.

While labour unions in France have sued Ikea over the spying scandal, Denize and his wife are believed to be the first Ikea customers taking legal action against Ikea for being targeted by the company’s spying efforts.

According to Denize, Ikea France allegedly asked for police files on him and his wife over a dispute they had with Ikea after furniture they purchased for their vacation home was never delivered.

When the couple’s sizeable order failed to turn up as promised on December 15th, 2006, Denize entered into what became a protracted battle with Ikea over reimbursement for the late delivery.

Stuck with a house, but no furniture, the couple was forced to spend Christmas in a nearby bed and breakfast.

In addition, family and friends who had been promised the chance to spend their holidays at the couple’s brand new vacation home in the north of France had to cancel their plans.

“We were, to say the least, pissed at Ikea,” said Denize.

While the furniture was finally delivered after two months of waiting, Denize continued to pursue reimbursement, emailing a top manager at Ikea France as well as representatives with Ikea in Sweden.

A representative of Ikea France eventually emailed Denize demanding that discussions about a possible settlement be continued over the phone or in person.

The gist of what he communicated to the couple was that Ikea no longer wanted to pay what they had promised, according to Denize.

“When we refused to meet him in person or talk on the phone, saying we wanted everything in writing, he became rude and dismissive,” he said.

The couple spent months emailing back and forth with Ikea.

“He threatened us with lawyers, he was rude, derogatory and outright mean and bullying,” said Denize.

Eventually, in August 2007 the couple received half of the promised sum from Ikea.

Despite not wanting to accept the offer, the couple were tired and sad and felt threatened enough by the company to finally give in and accept the reduced sum.

Denize and his wife had put the matter behind them until late February of this year when French media reports surfaced alleging that Ikea had accessed secret police files in order to spy on employees and customers starting in 2003.

Much to their disbelief, the couple learned that, at the height of their dispute with the company, high ranking officials from Ikea France had ordered investigators to pry into their private lives.

The revelations cast a new light on demands that meetings to discuss their dispute in person.

“The more we think about it the more uncomfortable we get and this whole incident is like a bad movie – what was Ikea going to do to us?”

Denize’s wife Johanna promptly called Ikea after news of the spying scandal broke to find out just what was going on.

She spoke to Ylva Magnusson, the press officer of the Ikea Group based in Sweden.

Magnusson had previously made statements in the media about the scandal and the couple perceived her as responsible for the investigation of these “incidents”.

According to the couple, Magnusson refused to comment on the matter, and kept referring them to the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates in France which is now in charge of the case.

The couple then called Gregoire Betrou, the contact person at the firm, whose contact details they had been given by Magnusson.

But once they gave their name and reason for calling, Betrou refused to talk on the phone and told them to email any questions, said Denize.

“We immediately emailed him asking what was going on. Who at Ikea had spied on us? Why? Who had access to the information? What had the information been used for?”

The couple has since emailed Betrou and Skadden three times, but have received no response.

As of early April, a month since their first contact with Magnusson and Skadden, they still have not heard a thing.

When The Local contacted Magnusson, she said that she was unwilling to comment on any individual case to protect the privacy of the individuals involved and would therefore not elaborate on her conversation with the couple.

Though she agreed that the internal investigation is taking time she said that it is important that it is allowed to run its course.

“This is a very important investigation and there is a reason it is taking time. It is being done very thoroughly and extensively,” Magnusson told The Local.

She stressed that it is possible for those involved to get in contact with the lawyers at Skadden and theorized that the lack of response could be due to the investigation still being in its early stages.

Repeated messages left by The Local with Gregoire Betrou at Skadden asking for comment were left unanswered.

For Pascal Denize and his wife, however, this may well be too little too late.

Next week, they plan to file a lawsuit against Ikea in France for violating their privacy, with another suit planned for Sweden.

The couple may also sue Ikea in the US, as some of the alleged espionage against them was carried out while they were living in the United States.

The couple are hoping others in their situation will also come forward and not let Ikea make the scandal “go away” by dragging out the investigation.

They want the story to be told.

“We are Swedish. We used to be proud of Ikea and Kamprad,” Denize said, in reference to Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad.

“We used to toot their horn, defend their products. Now all we feel is shame”.

BY:Matthew Warren/ The Local France and Rebecca Martin The Local Sweeden

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4 thoughts on “IKEA SCANDAL (spying on angry customers and workers)

  1. It is actually a nice and useful piece of info. I am happy that you simply shared this helpful information with us. Please keep us informed like this. Thank you for sharing.

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  2. Spying by IKEA on its own customers is outrageous and a flagrant human rights abuse. by corrupt businessmen. But how far did the spying go ? Sexually and electronically too ? Exactly how covert is this operation ? And J. Cecillon of Capitol subsidiary of EMI is involved which complicates matters for the ICC. I mean, at least IKEA didn’t torture non consenting individuals akin as to how EMI hide behind a history of secrets with the secret services. The abuse of covert technologies to ”spy” in the 21 century is alive and well. It will take gust and courage to rid this society of criminals that abuse covert technologies.

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  3. So very glad to see people actually taking on Ikea for the corporate bully and tyrant its conduct seems to suggest it can show itself to be at times. A new lawsuit has been filed against the corporate giant by a former employee in Harris County (Houston) Texas District Court, citing the company’s tendency toward tactics which can be deemed outrageously abusive, discriminatory, retaliatory, and malicious. When more speak out, Ikea will have to take note and make change.

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